Friday, April 11, 2008

Sleeves

It is easy to get caught up in a web of self absorption, focusing only on our hardships and shortcomings. Sometimes it is all we can do to get up and keep trying. But no one else knows that of course. We all put on our best smiles as we greet the day, dressing our countenances in carefree sunshine and stepping out the door with a springy, light gate. Everyone does it to some extent. No one likes to wear their issues on their skin. We keep it buried beneath layers of striving and sometimes, festering dressings.

But what would happen if we could see it all?

I thought about this while walking to class once, wondering what I would change if I could see a list of trials, even small ones, that the people I interacted with were dealing with that day. Would I be more kind? Patient? Could I find the time to serve more if I was more aware of the need? Would I smile to strangers? Or walk a little slower to gaze at the hearts of those I was passing in a rush from one thing to the next?

Maybe I would just get depressed, saddened by how many things can go wrong in somebody's life. But I don't think so. More than anything I think that our problems become empowering. The fact that everyone does it everyday--gets up, cheers up, steps up--is an amazing testament to the unconquerable nature of the human spirit. Defeat doesn't really resonate with us.

And that is why our stories should be recorded. Sharing our stories with loved ones is what makes us human. There are few people on this planet who are immune to the power or allure of stories. We are all guilty of unconsciously, and continually, casting our nets in the hopes of landing a good one. The fact is, as humans, we hunger for "the story." We long to be engaged in the wonderful play that takes place between the listener and the teller, the dance between voice, ears, and mind. Storytelling is a way of standing tall. When you tell a story using your own words, you are demonstrating that the way that you speak, your accent, your choice of words, and the most unique characteristic that is perceivable from the outside, your voice, are all good enough. Not only good enough, but worthy of celebration!

We need to pass along stories of the importance of loving ourselves and the notion that we can never stop learning. We have to feel free to laugh and lament. We have to pass down stories of the joys of linking with others and the courage it takes to lead. We have to tell of living, and impart sensitivity to the fact that leaving is a necessary part of human existence, too.
Through everything we do in life--not just what we have earned but what we have learned--we build a legacy to pass on to others.
There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. [Ursula K. LeGuin]
After all, without stories, all we're left with is empty shirt sleeves.

1 comment:

Oliver said...

I totally agree. Have you ever thought of how scars are like stories too? It amazes me how little we know about people until we hear their stories, and how much more you can learn about them from what they live and how they tell it than from straightforward questions. Perhaps it's easier to know someone by climbing in through a window than from knocking on the door.

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